Running the Greatest Race: From Student to Faculty Member

January 22, 2018

Jonathan Vinson was in the race of a lifetime.

It was 2017, and he was running a marathon in Switzerland that involved an ascent 6,000 feet up a mountain for 26 miles. With each step, he could feel the cold pressing in on his lungs. The air grew thinner, but he kept pushing himself harder and harder.

Finally, he reached the summit.

He was exhausted, of course, but looking back he never had any regrets about the challenge.

That also happens to be a good summary of Vinson’s journey as a Crown student majoring in Communication to becoming an Assistant Professor of Communication. The steps he took were not always in a straight line, but they were leading him upward on a God-directed path.


Where it all started

Vinson attended Crown College from 2007-2011, initially as a nursing major. He found himself in the Communication program after a scheduling error. His adviser encouraged him to try the Perspectives in Communication class anyway to see if he liked it (and he did).

Vinson was an active student, participating in Student Senate and various film festivals.

“I was involved in a lot of different areas outside of the classroom,” says Vinson. “One of those areas was making films. We had many film festivals every semester. Honestly, I wasn’t planning on being involved in film until I won a few awards for a short film. I realized I might have a talent here.”

Eventually, Vinson decided to do a deep dive into photography and video. As Student Chaplain, he learned about leading others and the power of good communication.

“There were so many moments that were foundational and helped me learn my craft,” he says. “For shooting and editing, I learned everything I needed to know in the classroom. I learned a lot of the foundational things in ministry, like how to read God’s word and understand the scriptures. This spiritual formation period helped me find the call God had for me.”

In the end, Vinson obtained a Communication degree and graduated in 2011 with a relational emphasis and a minor in Psychology.


Post graduation work

Post graduation, Vinson started at Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minn., working three years in adult ministry and the last year as a film producer.

From there, he worked at Moving Edge Media in Minneapolis for two years. He worked as both a photographer and videographer. During this time Vinson earned a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Bethel Seminary. He wrote a thesis on theology and film, drawing together two of his passions.

“There were a lot of twists and turns,” says Vinson. “At first I wanted to be a therapist, then I wanted to be a pastor, and then realized I wanted to be a film producer and someday teach. Many people could look at my life and see it not making much sense as it is all over the place. For me, it never felt like that big of a shift because the core of those things is all about storytelling. My drive is narrative and stories, and that’s been the thread God has placed in my heart.”

In 2016, Vinson received a phone call asking him to join the full-time staff at Crown College in their Communication program after seeing his work and knowing his heart for the college.

“I always knew I wanted to be a professor someday,” Vinson says. “But I didn’t expect to reach it this soon. I was so honored to take on this role. I wasn’t searching out this role because I was thrilled with my job. Although, I always felt like I was supposed to teach someday and knew this was a great opportunity. I felt called to teach at an institution like Crown because they encourage the faculty to invest in the students’ lives.”

After much prayer, he accepted the position.

“My wife and I kept saying it felt like I was coming back home,” he says.


His time at Crown

At age 29, Vinson landed his dream job. Right away, Vinson began ramping up the program with with new technology advancements and by bringing back film festivals like the 24 Hour Film Fest and Allen Film Fest, which are designed for students to share their creative talents.

He now teaches classes including Media Foundations, which offers a basic understanding of DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) cameras and the world of film, Video Editing, which combines the basics of film editing software procedures with aesthetic skills in order to explore the essential practices of post-production, and Speech, which includes analyzing a target audience, organizing material, preparing an effective method of delivery, and developing informative and persuasive speeches.

One outside project involved a trip to Stockholm, Sweden. He also partnered with a local church, Westwood Community Church, to do a video in Haiti about their work overseas.

“I love traveling, and I love being able to take some of that work into photography classes,” says Vinson. “Staying fresh in the field is a big thing to me so I can then bring that back into the classroom.”

Vinson continually works to expand the Communication program along with Dr. Scott Moats, the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost, and is excited to see new professors like Dr. Kellie Corti join the staff, who teaches the interpersonal side of Communication.

As the team for the Communication program has grown, so have the resources and facilities accessible for students in the program.

Vinson, along with Thomas Clapper, the school’s videographer, had significant roles in the recent renovation of the Communication’s production suite which offers students a place to relax, study, edit videos in a new editing lab, and produce music in a dedicated recording studio.

“When you see that passion God transfers into the hearts and lives of your students, it’s incredible,” Vinson says. “Not only seeing them grow in whatever discipline you may be teaching, but to see them grow as individuals and as brothers and sisters in Christ.”

“I love the energy my students bring. I love helping people communicate their stories whether through the art of photography, film, or the gift of speech,” he adds. “There is something quite magical when you can communicate something and then see a fire lit in them.”

His advice to anyone looking to enter the field?

“Take advantage of mentorship,” says Vinson. “Looking back at my experiences, I had some crucial development moments with my faith and film work, and my mentors walked side by side with me. I owe so much to my incredible mentors here at Crown.”